Location: Wreck Alley - Cooper Island, BVI
by Wayne & Karen Brown
Today Cori is taking us to some explore some more shipwrecks. These ships did not sink in a storm and no one died when these ships sunk. These ships were sunk on purpose! These are old tug boats that were sunk to create artificial reefs like the reef the R.M.S. Rhone has become.
Cori has our dive boat on a mooring over a reef near the wrecks, at a place called "Wreck Alley". The tugs were not sunk on the reefs, because the ships would have crashed into the reefs and damaged the corals. These ships were sunk in the sand next to the reefs and away from the delicate corals.
We enter the water and zoom on our DVs above the reef. The coral reef below us is about 50 feet deep. We get to edge of the reef and it slopes steeply to the sandy bottom. On the white sand below can can see large, dark shapes -- the sunken tug boats! We angle our DVs down to the mysterious sunken tugs below us.
The first wreck we reach is the newest of the tug boats sunk here. Cori told us it was sunk about 1 1/2 years ago. As we cruise by the bow we can see the tug's name --"Beata". Beata is sitting upright on the sea floor and leaning over on its right (starboard) side. This ship has not been underwater for very long so it is not covered in the corals, sponges and other marine growth that we saw on the Rhone.
We point our DVs down to the bottom to investigate under this sunken tug. As we look underneath the tug boat we see that it is starting to get covered with marine growth. We can see algae, and small corals and sponges starting to grow here. Fish have found a home here, too. Between the sandy bottom and the bottom of the tug we see small schools of different kinds of fishes.
After our cruise around the bottom of the ship we circle higher up around the tug. We stop and set our DVs down on the deck of the tug and peek into tug's open doorways. A school of pot-bellied copper sweepers (about 3 inches long) hide in the shadows of a darkened cabin. It seems like these goofy fish aren't sure which way is up because they are all swimming at different angles -- upside down, rightside up, vertical and other angles.
We peek in another open doorway. It's the toilet! For some reason fish aren't using this as a home. Any ideas why?
We pick up our DVs to investigate the other wrecks nearby. We zoom to the next wreck -- a dark shape on the sand about 80 feet away from the Beata. As we get closer we can see that there are actually two wrecks that are side-by-side. They are almost touching each other. Cori told us one tug was sunk about 5 years ago and the other about 10 years ago. Both wrecks have more corals, sponges, and algae growing on them the Beata. The wrecks are also more broken up then the Beata, too. Even though the oldest tug is a lot younger than the wreck of the Rhone, it is a lot more broken up. Cori told us that Wreck Alley gets more currents and rough water than the place where the Rhone is sunk. That is why these wrecks get broken up faster.
It looks like the fishes have had more time to get used to these older sunken tugs because we notice that more fish seem to be living aroung these wrecks. In addition to finding small schools of fish living in the the cracks, crevices, and open cabins we also find huge schools of fish swimming around the outside of these two wrecks. On our DVs we zoom toward a huge school of hundreds of striped grunts (about 8 inches long). The fish don't swim away in fright. The middle of the school just opens up, lets us zoom through and then close back up again.
We are at the end of our time exploring these wrecks, so we turn and zoom back to the dive boat. We think about how these old useless tugs are now useful as artificial reefs and as home to many different kinds of underwater creatures.
Wayne & Karen
Wreck Alley, Cooper Island
Position: 18º 22' N / 64º 30' W
Air Temp: 85ºF
Weather: light breeze, sunny with scattered clouds.
Sea Conditions: slightly choppy seas, slight current
Dive Time: 45 minutes
Maximum Depth: 84 feet.
Water Temp: 81ºF
Underwater Visibility: 80 feet
Near the top of the wreck Karen cruises by the tug boat "Beata". It is resting on the sandy bottom 48 feet underwater.
Under Beata's hull, next to the sandy bottom, we see that a small school of school master snappers (about 8 inches long) have found a home.
These copper sweeper fish don't seem to know which way is up! We found them inside a cabin of the tug.
When we peeked into this open doorway we found the tug's toilet!
Karen cruises up to another sunken tug boat. A yellow-tail snapper (about one foot long) swims by the front (bow) of the ship.
A huge school of striped grunts (about 8 inches long) swim around another sunken tug boat.